Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Masters? MPhil? PhD? Which to Choose?
Assalamualaikum WRT WBT
I was attending a meeting yesterday when Sakinah asked me a question about further studies. And since conversation during a meeting isn’t something you can really do (or should do for that matter, hehe), I sensed some unanswered questions and a lingering curiosity from Sakinah’s side.
So as requested by Sakinah, Im writing a post concerning furthering studies. A few simple questions that may come up when you think about doing post graduate studies; Should I? Is it hard? What is expected of me? Should I do taught course or research? Should I go for MPhil/Fast track or just stick to Masters first?
During my final year of degree, I was asked by the Vice President of my University (other universities call them TNC) about my 5 year plan. He specifically requested to come into our class to talk to us. And I guess he wanted to see where our minds were and where our visions were focused on since we were nearly at the end of the road.
When Prof. Abu asked me, I already had a goal in mind. I wanted to be a lecturer. Therefore, I will need my PhD. Prof. Abu doesn’t really know many names. But unfortunately for me, he knew mine (He kinda reminds me of my dad. So I’m partiality fond of him, and I always talk to him since I was a Student Council Representative. Which explains why he knows me. Hehhehe). Anywaaaay, I was among the first people he asked.
My answer was full of confidence. In five years, I see myself either already with or doing my PhD. Determination and confidence was oozing out of me. Hahaha. And yes, I was certain I would be able to do it.
Confidence. Certainty. Two of the things you need. The other important element of the overall sum is knowledge. You need to find out a few things about the what, where, why and how of things.
First of all, to those who want to go into post grad studies, I say “Go ahead and do it!” Islam encourages us to pursue knowledge till our last breath. And if you see it as a good opportunity to contribute to Islam, then by all means, here’s the application letter!
We are in need of many scholars especially for the development of Islam itself. Knowledge leads to influence, influence leads to listeners, and listeners lead to followers. In this era where qualifications are so important to the general population, more qualified Muslims are needed. The higher the qualification the more respect one gets and the more people believe what one says.
There are 2 different types of Masters Studies; Taught course and Research-based. Majority of people take the taught course. Very very few are adventurous enough to jump into research. When it comes to taught course masters, basically it is 2 years of going to minimum classes and by the end of the duration, there will also be a short research you will need to come out with and present. When one says research-based, then I assume everyone would understand that it’s 100% research.
If I am asked which one is easier, I’ll reply in saying “There is nothing ‘easy’ about Post Grad Studies”. Both approaches have its advantages and disadvantages. But both come with its list of challengers as well.
For those who would like to venture into a new field of study unrelated to their degrees, I advise going for taught course masters. Because for one, you will be entering a new major, something you only have minimal knowledge of and your foundation might be very rocky. And with the really basic familiarity to research and its processes, you need the extra classes. You need to learn more in order to produce more. If you feel like your base isn’t as concrete, again, go for taught courses.
The concept is the same as doing your Diploma. Most people skip this stage and go for Degree, but they end up getting a shock of their lives at how different the new way of requiring knowledge is. Some cannot cope. Those who go thru Diploma get a longer time to set up their basic skills and knowledge before going thru degree. But once they go thru it, they grasp concepts much faster because of their strong initial understanding.
From High School straight to Degree, well, people do survive it. Why? Because these people are able to adapt to their situation in a short period of time.
If you are confident enough to take Research-based Masters head on, and you have a high degree of discipline, I say “You Rock! Go for it!” Also, it matters that you were serious when you did your Final Year Project.
Most scholarships only support research-based masters because of the end results. When you do any type of research, in the end you will come up with new knowledge or new application of certain knowledge. Therefore, your contribution will be acknowledged.
Again, it is all based on you. How far you want to go and how far you are willing to sacrifice.
Now PhD. That is a different matter altogether. Haha.
Between Masters and PhD, there is this thing called MPhil (Master of Philosophy). MPhil is a phase where you do research and after a few months of it, you will be evaluated to see if it can be upgraded to PhD or downgraded to Masters. In UTM, it’s called Fast Track. So if your research is good enough and reaches the level of PhD, then you will have the opportunity to skip that phase and go for the short cut. A 3.5 and above CGPA is one of the requirements for MPhil applications.
If you already have a Masters Degree, then ofkos you can straight away go for your PhD. Those in this category don’t usually have problem adjusting. It’s the Fast track ones who encounter a loooooooong list of tough challenges.
During the first year of PhD, if people asked me “How’s your PhD going? I was thinking of going for it as well” I’d answer “Its ok. Eh, sure. You really should!” Now.. If people tell me they want to do PhD, I’ll stop them and ask “Are you sure you wanna do PhD?”
But we will talk about that in another post. Hehe.